This is our last night in the country. The CUCs are dwindling thin in our pockets and we’re weary from spending night after night on stiff mattresses, showering under the low-pressure valves, and breathing the pollution of Havana. We’re by no means fragile travelers, but everyone has their limit. And while this has been nothing short of an incredible adventure, I am really looking forward to being able to drink tap water again.
Tonight we go to something familiar – the art scene. In Denver we live in the middle of a rapidly gentrifying art scene. In Cuba, that scene is encased largely within the Cuban Art Factory. A giant factory and warehouse that had been retrofitted with gallery spaces, a dance studio, a movie theater, kitchens, bars, and other multi-use spaces. Tourists and residents alike, everyone enjoys this space. It’s a spot where the young can feel young and somewhat glamorous, pretty even. The mojitos are pretty cheap and the food is alarmingly good if you’re willing to wait for it.
The art is starkly modern. The mediums are fresh – from fashion to electronics to music. All of the local artists who hang in a place like this are conscious of where they are, where they create, but don’t seem to pay much heed to the classic art mediums that have been around for a while. Everything that is here presents itself in something of a vacuum. Yes, Cuba has internet, but it is an accessory item rather than a showpiece that we know it as in the states. Art here is first made to be viewed in person, then maybe it finds a way online.
Of course, all of the art left to appreciate in Cuba doesn’t just hang in a factory. Wandering any street you’ll find an artists studio every fourth or fifth door. Next to bodegas or groceries or a place Hemingway might have had a drink at. Right next to the doorway that sells state-sponsored Cuban souvenirs is a painter who shows up in the morning and just starts producing and making and painting and hanging his work up on a line to be bought up by anyone who passes. And at $5CUCs for some of this stuff, it’s hard to ignore. It’s raw and real and unpretentious and unlike anything I’ll see in a good while.